MERCER – After serving 20 years as Mercer County’s controller, Tom Amundsen is hanging up his calculator.
The five-term Democrat incumbent lost his seat to Republican Stephen Sherman II in the Nov. 2 general election. At 65, Amundsen said he’s not looking for work.
“I’ll be available to help the county on retirement issues if needed,’’ Amundsen said. “But other than that, I’m retiring.’’
The Hermitage native entered the political arena with an unusual background. One of his first jobs was serving as a radio operator aboard merchant ships.
“I got to travel all over the world,’’ he said. “And I got to stay in places like India for three months.’’
During his down time he took accounting and business classes from Youngstown State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree.
For a time he worked for FNB Corp. as a credit analyst. Then he joined the U.S. Department of Defense as an auditor for more than a decade. He commuted to his job near Cleveland while living in Hermitage.
“A lot of what I did involved coming up with defense contractor labor rates,’’ Amundsen said. “I saved the department more than $1 million in costs.’’
The government wanted Amundsen to move to a new post in Washington, D.C., but said he wanted to remain in the area.
Soon he found himself running for controller — popularly known as the watchdog of public finances — after Dennis Songer decided not to seek a third term.
When entering the office, Amundsen said much of the county’s business practices were in poor shape.
“When I began auditing the county’s books I found they really didn’t put things out to bid,’’ Amundsen said.
Then he discovered some county departments weren’t handing over their contract deals to his department as required.
“We’re supposed to be the depository of all county contracts,’’ Amundsen said. “And we have that now.’’
By the end of his tenure, Mercer County’s financial ship was on smooth water — the county has gone five years without a property tax increase, and the county commissioners actually decreased taxes in 2017 and 2018.
In retirement, Amundsen will continue to pursue his passion — caring for the Apollo Maennerchor Club in Sharon. The club was formed a century and a half ago by local Germans and their descendants to keep their ethnic culture alive.
Around nine years ago, the club’s finances were dire.
“It was pretty much dying,’’ Amundsen said. “They couldn’t pay their bills.’’
He and two other members secured a bank loan and were able to take over operations and pay off the debt. Under his stewardship, the club has upgraded much of its enormous building on South Dock Street — including its downstairs bar and a large hall used to hold events.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the club had to shut down to cut expenses. But it gradually has reopened and has started holding events.
In looking back on his accomplishments with the county, he created his staff.
“This office isn’t about me,’ Amundsen said. “It’s about my employees.’’